brian j plachta
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by brian j plachta on November 4th, 2018

Why are more people these days meditating, practicing yoga, and becoming intentional about creating space for quiet and solitude? The answer? They’re seeking inner peace, leaving the noisy world behind for a few moments to reconnect with themselves and their souls. 
Modern spiritual teachers Thomas Merton, Thomas Keating, and Richard Rohr all suggest that the secret to finding balance in life is setting aside daily time to be still. Whether you call it meditation, contemplation, centering prayer, or some other practice such as walking in nature, we all need to find the balance between the active and contemplative parts of our lives.
If we want inner peace, we need to strike the balance between Beingand Doing. 
Beingmeans it’s okay to sit in solitude in front of a glowing candle and stare at the flame for 10-20 minutes. Nothing has to happen in that space. We’re simply present to ourselves and the Creator. Absorbed in the flickering light, we rest in the quiet, allowing it to calm us, hold us, and touch our lives.
As we sit in stillness, our thoughts often ricochet through our brains. When they do, gently repeating a calming word or phrase allows our minds and bodies to settle back into the peaceful quiet. We might then tuck that word or phrase into our hearts to carry with us into the day. 
Beingreminds us of who we are—humans grounded in love—and from that natural state of Beingwe then move into the Doingpart of our day.
Having grounded ourselves through a daily meditation practice, ourDoingbecomes more balanced and centered. We develop deeper patience, compassion, and wisdom—virtues beyond belief. And when the day gets chaotic, we can return to Beingby taking a short break and re-centering ourselves with a few moments of silence.
Give yourself the gift of inner peace and balance by setting aside 10-20 minutes daily for solitude. Stare at a flame. Gaze at the sunrise. Feel your breath cascade through your lungs. Whatever feels comfortable during your time of Being,let it become life-giving for you.
Let your time in meditation rebalance your Being& Doing.
—brian j plachta

by brian j plachta on October 26th, 2018

Our lives are jam-packed and overly busy. We spend much of our day rushing here and there, taking care of this or that, checking off the perpetual to-do list.
When the pace gets chaotic—when the demands on our plate overwhelm us—we need to find rest for our minds and bodies. We need to stop and listen to our hearts tug at us, “Please, slow down. Find rest.” 
But where? How?
The other morning as I sat in solitude, I was in one of those “God, I’m tired” moods. The stress in my neck and shoulders pinched my body. The grind of being a human to-do list had taken its toll on me. 
As I sat lamenting, reflecting, I heard a gentle invitation whisper to my heart,
I embraced and savored the word,
I imagined God walking toward me. As he drew near, he wrapped his arms around me and cradled my head. I placed my face against his strong chest. 
And I did. I felt the Creator’s Presence. A surge of energy—His Infinite Love—radiated through my body and caressed my life with compassion. 
I felt comforted. Renewed. Energized.
Our human lives need time to rest in Divine Love—to let God’s Spirit hold, comfort, and recharge us. 
Care for yourself today. Find a sacred space to be filled with Divine Energy. Hear the Creator whisper as he holds you, “I delight in you. RestintoMe.”
—brian j plachta​.


by brian j plachta on October 19th, 2018

My spiritual mentor says there are typically three voices in our heads—our authentic voice, God’s voice, and the unholy voice.Learning to distinguish between them, he teaches, gives us clarity, direction, and balance.
Our authentic voice empowers us.It speaks with honesty, give us affirmations, and helps us make wise choices. It invites us to question what story we’re telling ourselves and determine if that story is true. 
Our authentic voice is comfortable with the holy tension between our good qualities and our negative traits, because both have gifts to offer on the road toward inner growth. The authentic voice works in harmony with and seeks God’s voice. It knows that we and God co-create the life we choose to live. 
God’s voice is the voice of love. It inspires, gives us wisdom, and provides insight. God’s voice encourages and guides us. It points us in the right direction. It helps us discover that we are enough. We’re both human and divine because we’re God’s Spirit revealed in flesh.
The unholy one has a voice that shames us, leaving us filled with doubt and confusion. It wants to lead us into excess. The unholy one tells us we’re bad. It lies. It tries to entice us to numb the pain of life by clinging to attachments that point us in the wrong direction.
When we stop and ask ourselves which voice we’re listening to, we learn to distinguish the tone and quality of each. 
For example, if we’re fearful about an upcoming meeting at work, our authentic voice helps us identify the fear and encourages us to turn to God to seek his insight and help us face the fear. Our authentic voice might ask God for the grace of emptiness—to empty ourselves of all the competing voices in our heads—so we can hear his voice and let the butterflies in our stomach fly straight. 
God’s voice will then remind us we’re safe and we’re strong. He’ll give us wisdom during the meeting to speak well and move through the fear into truth. 
The unholy one will shame us and tell us we’re no good. “You’re going to be a flop at the meeting. You may as well stay in bed and pull the covers over your head, because you’re not enough and never will be.”
The fear might not completely go away, but armed with the practice of knowing how to distinguish between these voices, we’re empowered to choose which ones we wish to hear and follow.
Carl Jung said, “I would rather be whole than good.”At first blush, his statement might be surprising. The unholy one would have us interpret Jung’s assertion as a license to let loose, sin freely, and go down the path of not caring who or what gets in our way.
Our authentic voice recognizes that we have both a light and a shadow within us, and the two work together to make us whole. Our striving to be “good” can be the ego’s unnatural desire to be perfect, and by doing so, we build walls of protection and self-defense in our endeavor to hide our imperfections.
God’s voice tells us Jung is right. We are whole. God loves us just as we are—perfectly human—and as we take time to listen to God’s voice, which is always one of love and wisdom, we’ll walk the path of inner peace and balance. We’ll recognize that freedom and responsibility are twins. We’ll know the truth, and it will set us free.
The next time you hear those competing voices in your head, stop for a moment.  Ask yourself, “Whose voice do I hear?  Whose voice do I choose to follow?”
—brian j plachta


by brian j plachta on October 10th, 2018

As science and spirituality continue to discover more about how our souls function, a recent theory that’s evolved is the concept of the heartmind.
According to the Heart Math Institute the heartmind is that place within us where the intellectual part of our being (the mind) connects and integrates with the spiritual part of our being (the heartspace). Together the heart and mind provide us with wholeness, and connect us with our souls.
The heart has intuitive power. It acquires wisdom and understanding through deep listening, the type that occurs in prayer, meditation, and contemplation. When we become quiet, we can access the heartspace, and gain guidance from the Creator. 
Some faith traditions teach that the heart is the location of our soul. It’s the umbilical cord that connects us with God. 
The heart listens. It’s comfortable with mystery. It holds the questions so we can live into the answers. Our heart leads us, and eventually our feet catch up. 

The mind is our onboard computer. It receives facts and information, and then stores them in our brain like a filing cabinet. The mind distinguishes among its stored data so we can form logical conclusions.  
The mind excludes and eliminates. It establishes preferences and goals. It typically sees things as black and white. 
Unfortunately, our Western culture teaches that the mind is our chief operating system. “I think; therefore, I am,” we’ve mistakenly learned. So, we rely upon half of our human potential—the mind—to the heart’s exclusion. 
Over the last few decades, however, our culture is realizing the importance of the heartmind connection. It’s as if the mind is saying to the heart, “Hey, I could use some help here.” And the heart responds, “I thought you’d never ask.” 

For example, if a friendship becomes one-sided—where one friend fails to communicate or make time to hang out with the other, we might be tempted to rely solely upon our minds to figure out what’s going on. 
“Maybe they’re just busy. Maybe they don’t like me.” Our brain flipflops back and forth trying to find a logical explanation for the cold shoulder we’re getting. 
If we use only our emotions to gain perspective on the situation, we might feel rejected and get trapped by anger. Or we might judge the other friend as selfish or lazy. Uncaring.
If, however, we integrate the mind and the heart by spending time connecting the two through contemplation or meditation, the heartmind provides us with the deeper wisdom we need to understand the situation and grow. 
“It’s time to walk away,” our heartmind might discern after numerous attempts to salvage the friendship. “Relationships are two-way streets. Savor and experience the wisdom of letting go through holy detachment. It leads to inner peace.”
Or, the heartmind might inform us, “Your friend has been hurt by others and is afraid. It takes time to trust again. Show compassion as best as you can. Let the relationship unfold.”
When my wife tries to connect with me on a deeper level, she’ll often ask, “How’s your heart?”  If I’m stuck in my mind—or unwilling at that moment to go deeper—I’ll respond, “Good.”  
“That doesn’t tell me much. Where’s your heart?”  
“It’s under my chest,” I joke as I stop and place my hand on my heart. 
When I pause for a moment and connect with my heartmind, eventually my heart opens. As it does, my mind sinks into my heartspace, and I respond, “I’m anxious. I’m concerned about that big project. But my heart tells me if I just get into the office and get it done, it’ll turn out well. It usually does. I do the work and leave the results to God.”
The next time you’re trying to work through a problem or situation, practice the heart-mind pause. Stop for a moment. Let your mind connect with your heartspace by placing your hand on your heart. Feel your heart beat, its warmth. Listen for wisdom’s guidance as you ask yourself, “How’s my heart?” 

—brian j plachta

by brian j plachta on October 5th, 2018

Imagine sitting on an airplane soaring high above the clouds. Suddenly, the plane shakes. The overhead lights flicker. The captain announces the plane is losing cabin pressure. 
Your lungs gasp for air. As oxygen masks drop from the panel above, you put on the mask. Relieved, you breathe in life-giving oxygen.  
Life can be like that turbulent plane ride. The turmoil of daily living can leave us shaken, anxious, shallow of breath. Confused.
The good news? Our hearts have a built-in oxygen mask. When we were born, God breathed the breath of life—God’s Spirit—into our bodies. With the first breath we inhaled, God placed the Divine Spirit of Love and Wisdom into our hearts to give us inner guidance. And every breath we take is a direct connection with our lifeline to God, our spiritual oxygen mask.
Twenty-five years ago, I hit a turbulent patch of life. The demands of my career, raising four children, and balancing family and friends, overwhelmed me. I shared my anxiety and fears with a mentor. He asked me if I spent time each day in meditation. I told him I prayed—sometimes—but although I believed in God, I didn’t feel connected with him. 
My mentor told me to get up early and spend at least twenty minutes in quiet meditation each day to talk with and listen to God. Open my heart and simply be present to myself and the Creator. That connection, that time spent being still, he said, was my oxygen mask, my lifeline to God.  
Starting the next morning, I did as he said. I sat still for twenty minutes. I breathed in and out, aware of God’s love and guidance. 
Since then, I’ve put on my oxygen mask daily. And while life still has its ups and downs, at least I know I have a place to reconnect with the inner wisdom the Creator offers. Because of that deepening connection, I feel safe. Loved.
In the sixteenth century during the height of the church’s Inquisition, when turmoil, fixation on rules, and finger-pointing caused many to lose faith, Saint Teresa of Avila rose up and called the church to return to its ancient tradition of contemplation. The daily practice of setting aside time for solitude, silence, and interior prayer, she proclaimed, would bring about inner peace, allow each person to experience God directly, and cultivate the connection between each soul and the God of love, whom she called the Beloved. 
Similarly, in the 1960s, as the postmodern church and world spun aimlessly, Trappist monk Thomas Merton reintroduced contemplation to the Western world. He proclaimed that daily meditation was and is the Holy Spirit’s invitation for inner connection, universal growth, and transformation. Reclaiming that contemplative tradition, he wrote, is key.
I wonder if Saint Teresa, Thomas Merton, and my mentor are onto something magical. Simple. As we face a time of disorder both personally and within the world, could the Holy Spirit once again be inviting us to put on our spiritual oxygen masks?  
What would the world look like if each of us—individuals, politicians, church leaders, media and celebrity elites—took twenty minutes daily to connect with the inner wisdom and guidance of our Higher Power? Would we stop before we posted a nasty remark on Facebook? Would we pray for wisdom instead of pointing fingers? Would the same Spirit that created each of us in the Creator’s image and likeness become the oxygen mask we all need to live God’s dream—that the Universe live in love and harmony?
Instead of throwing up hands in dismay and resisting, let’s accept the Holy Spirit’s invitation of love. Starting today, what if we each set aside twenty minutes daily to sit quietly, open our hearts, and put on our spiritual oxygen masks? Let’s see how the Spirit of Divine Love and Wisdom within us makes everything new. Who’s in? 
—brian j plachta


by brian j plachta on September 29th, 2018

Have you ever noticed those threads of spider webs that brush across your face when you walk through the woods? Those barely visible strings of silk that come out of nowhere and wrap themselves across your skin?

After encountering several, they become annoying. Distracting. Your quiet nature-walk turns into an epic battle with a gang of hidden spiders shooting silk bullets at you. 
Our negative thoughts are much like those pesky silk webs. Our fears and resentments wrap themselves around our psyche. Soon, a day that started out good gets tangled up in negativity.  
“You idiot,” we silently shout at ourselves when we make a mistake. “I’m such a jerk,” our inner critic proclaims. “That driver’s going ten miles under the speed limit,” we grumble as road rage rears its too-familiar face.
And like those pesky spider webs, we wonder, “How can we swipe away negative thoughts?”
To discover how others deal with negativity, I asked several people how they do it. Here are their responses.
“Awareness. That’s the first step for me,” a co-worker said. “When I recognize negative thoughts whirling in my head, I shift my focus to gratitude. I stop and make a mental list of three things I’m grateful for in that moment.”
A friend reported, “I use humor to swipe away negative thinking. When I catch myself grumbling like a grumpy old man, I chuckle—there you go again, you old fart. Can you look at what’s good about your life and get your happy face back on?Then I smile and restart my day.”
“I read a lot,” another person responded. “During the day, I chew on the spiritual books I’m reading to keep my mind occupied. The book Untethered Soul taught me our thoughts are simply energy moving through our brains. Because we’re mind, body, and spirit, we can choose our thoughts. So, I choose to focus on the beauty around me—blazing fall colors, a majestic blue sky, or the realization that I am good, safe, and loved.”
“I refocus my negative thoughts by becoming aware of my body,” a gym enthusiast told me. “When I’m anxious, I take several deep breaths and feel the life-giving oxygen within my lungs. Or I touch my hand to my chest and feel my heartbeat. Centering myself in my body grounds me as I recognize how lucky I am to be alive and healthy.”
“Much of my negative self-talk comes from a bad self-image,” a colleague reported. “When I don’t like myself, I slip into judging and whining. I’m learning to use positive affirmations to rebuild self-respect. ‘You’re a good person,’ I tell myself. As I bask in the gift of self-love, I treat others with more compassion.”
There are a lot of ways to retrain ourselves to think positive. The next time you notice yourself wrapped in the negative-thinking-web, try one of the practices mentioned above. Ask yourself, how do I swipe away negative thinking?
—brian j plachta

by brian j plachta on September 23rd, 2018

Remember those high school dances? Friday night after-the-football-game hops when the DJ played a slow song like Knights in White Satin and you got up the courage to ask that special someone if they’d like to dance? As your sweaty bodies swayed back and forth, you were just about to plant a kiss on that special someone’s moist lips—and then (if you went to a Catholic high school like I did) Sister Katrina tapped you on the shoulder and whispered, “Make room for Jesus!”
Her words sabotaged my teenage intentions. But as I’ve matured, I realized she was teaching an important piece of wisdom—creating space for God gives us balance and direction. Leaving room for the Creator connects us with the One whose greatest desire is for us to be happy.

It sounds simple—creating space for God—but life throttles into high gear as we get married, raise a family, and pursue demanding careers. Creating space for God falls off our priority list. And inner peace gets drowned out by daily stress.
A friend recently returned from a 30-day hiking adventure. His backpack was his sole possession on the trail. As he hiked, the pack’s straps pulled back his shoulders with ease. “My chest opened,” he said. “My heart felt free. Spacious. I had a sense God was present within me. For the first time in a long time, I felt peace.”
When my friend returned home, his joyful hikes with God were quickly replaced by the stressful pressure of the workplace. Refusing to let the stress monster overtake him, he integrated what he learned on the trail into a daily practice.

Now, during the work day when he feels anxiety building, when he observes his heart closing to protect himself, or when he notices his shoulders slumping over with the weight of responsibility, he takes a few moments to remember his backpack and the sense of God’s presence he felt on the trail. Pulling back his shoulders, he takes a few deep breaths and creates space for God.

“This simple practice,” he says, “lowers my blood pressure. It allows me to become creative. Somehow the answers to work problems seem to magically appear. It’s like plugging into Divine Guidance. This spiritual stuff works!”
As he shared his experience, I got to thinking about the perfect balance of the cross and how by opening his heart and creating space for God, my friend was connecting the human part of himself (the horizontal plank of the cross) with the Divine part of God (the vertical plank).  And at the intersection of the cross’ two wooden beams there’s love—the perfect union of our human hearts with God’s Divine Spirit. 
Perhaps creating space for God is as simple as developing a practice like my friend’s that allows us to slow down, connect with our bodies, breathe deeply, and open our hearts to the Presence of God. Maybe drawing our awareness to God’s presence in a busy work day is key to reducing anxiety and finding wholeness. 
The next time you feel stressed, notice your body’s posture. Take a few moments to pull back your shoulders, take in a few deep breaths, and create space for God. See if Sister Katrina was right—making room for Jesus gives us balance. Direction. Inner Peace.

—brian j plachta

by brian j plachta on September 15th, 2018

I try to catch a quick glimpse of the news each day by watching snippets of both the conservative and liberal media outlets before and after work. But regardless of which news channels I watch, my blood pressure doesn’t like it. I get caught up in the dualistic, we’re right and they’re wrong head games that each channel tries to jam down our throats.
A buddy recently suggested, “What if you prayed the news?” 
“What?” I asked.  
“Yeah. Pray the news. Like when you’re watching the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings, instead of rallying around one side or the other, what if you turned it into a prayer?  What if you stopped and asked God to fill our nation’s leaders with Wisdom?”
Wow! I thought. My blood pressure might like that. 
Intrigued, I tried praying the news that day. As I watched both sides banter, I paused and took a few breaths. “Father God, fill the men and women controlling our country with your Wisdom,” I prayed. “Guide us and our nation with your Spirit.” 
And, I tell you, it worked. No, the theatrics on television didn’t end. But I changed on the inside. I felt like I had become part of the solution—a prayerful solution. I felt compassion. Patience. Trust that our nation has historically gone through ups and downs of chaos over the centuries, and with God’s grace and our willingness to seek it, we’ve always come out as One Nation under God.  
Richard Rohr teaches that true growth and transformation must go through three stages: order, disorder, and reorder. This pattern is modeled by Christ’s Paschal Mystery of life, death, and resurrection. 

As I prayed the news, I realized we’re in the disorder phase. It’s not new or limited to one political party. We’ve been in this phase for a decade. And maybe the holy tension of this disorder invites us to seek God’s Wisdom to guide us into a new reorder, one that only God’s grace can unfold as he leads us through the desert into a new promised land. 
The chaos recently revealed in the Roman Catholic Church reminds me that we’re in the disorder phase not only politically, but spiritually. And in the midst of the anger and frustration that rises up in me, I’m reminded of what God told St. Francis during the church’s 12thcentury crisis, “I want you to repair my church, not condemn it.”

Perhaps part of the solution to our current disorder might be to pray the news. It might sound simplistic, but prayer contains an energy like droplets of water that evaporate into the clouds and then shower back down upon us with the life-giving energy of love and compassion. Those drops of love don’t always change the world immediately, but they change us on the inside. And as we evolve into deeper love and wisdom, we become positive, compassionate energizers. 
God formed creation as a co-creation. He infused our human flesh and bones with his Spirit so we can create more love in the world.  To make it work, we need to plug into God’s Divine Energy and connect with God’s Wisdom. 
Instead of grumbling at the news, I’m going to let grace teach me to pray the news until it becomes a habit. How about you?  Will you join me?  Let’s become God’s prayer.  
—brian j plachta


by brian j plachta on September 9th, 2018

According to Richard Hauser, a Jesuit priest, there are two ways of viewing God. And which way we view God impacts how we relate to him. 

One view suggests that God is the Great Rewarder. We spend our lives trying to gain God’s acceptance by being good so we’ll win his approval and receive his blessings. We believe if we do everything right, we’ll be happy, and when we die, God will welcome us to heaven. 

The problem with this belief is that when life is tough, we think we’ve lost God’s blessing. Then we either run from him (because we think he’s mad at us) or we try harder to be perfect to regain his love. We try to control God through our behavior. But God can’t be controlled, and because he made us in his Divine Image, we already have the Creator’s unconditional love.

The scriptural-based view sees God as our Divine Coach. Like a baseball coach, the Creator is beside us on the field of life. He’s in the players’ box, ready to instruct us, encourage us, and invite us to discover love and wholeness. He guides our steps with his wisdom. Our job is to listen to his coaching calls and follow his lead so we can discern (teach our hearts) how he’s inviting us to progress base-by-base toward wholeness. 

God coaches us through the Spirit of Wisdom—the Holy Spirit he breathed into our hearts with the first breath we took.The Holy Spirit is like a flame that flickers behind our hearts. It’s the umbilical cord that connects us to the Divine while we’re on life’s playing field. 

When we recognize God as our Divine Coach, we step up to the plate to co-create with him. We acknowledge we need him as our coach. We discover his deepest desire for us is to be happy.
A buddy calls these coaching instructions from God “holy nudges.” A nudge is a prod, a gentle poke that gets our attention. When we feel a nudge, we can either ignore it or try to figure out what it’s trying to communicate. 

Holy nudges come in many ways. 

Sometimes, there’s a word or a phrase that captures our attention. No matter what we are doing, that word or phrase continues to reappear. 

Other times, nudges come through a heartfelt sense of being invited or drawn toward something good, like when we meet a special person and feel a powerful connection. 

Holy nudges can arise from sitting with a wise mentor. By asking questions and noticing patterns, a spiritual mentor can help us recognize the movement of God in our lives.
We might experience nudges when we sit quietly and listen to God. Like a farmer creates fallow fields, quiet solitude creates an open space within our hearts so God can sprinkle seeds of love and wisdom that nourish and guide us. 

The other day, I got a nudge to reach out to a buddy who was struggling with family issues. Although I resisted initially—afraid of breaking the “Man Code”—the nudge kept coming back. So, after listening to my heart, I asked my friend if he’d like to grab some coffee. He accepted. I listened and encouraged him. As he talked through the problem, he gained clarity about what he needed to do to resolve it. When we left the coffee shop, I smiled. My buddy and I had heard and followed God’s nudges, and my friend had found inner direction.

Take time to notice Holy Nudges in your life. Let your heart follow them. They’re the movement of God leading you toward wholeness and happiness.

—brian j plachta

by brian j plachta on August 24th, 2018

The secular world teaches us to see things in black and white. This, not that. I’m a Democrat. You’re a Republican. I’m a Conservative. You’re a Liberal. I’m right, and if you’d only see things my way, you’d come to the light.  
This either/or way of viewing life divides us. It puts us into boxes. It spills over into the way we view the world and our ourselves. It shoves us into dualism.
Either/or thinking is a fallacy that presents two opposing options as the only options. You’re either for us or you’re against us. Often, however, the tension between two opposites can bring about a third, more creative, resolution to a situation—if we allow it to unfold. 

For example, if we look at ourselves as either good or bad, flawed or perfect, we adopt a false notion about ourselves. We limit our understanding of who we really are. 
The I’m flawed view continuously rubs our noses in our shortcomings. The I’m perfect lens eliminates any possibility for growth. 
A both-and perspective allows us to view ourselves honestly. It’s a holistic approach that invites us to acknowledge we’re made in the image and likeness of God. Therefore, we are good. However, at times we screw up, and in those times of messiness, we can look back and determine how wisdom invites us to grow. This both-and perspective allows us to be who we are: human and divine—perfectly human. 
God reveals this both-and pattern in nature. He gave us the sun and the moon to balance the tides, to carve out time for rest and activity. He created darkness and light. He made us both human (with flesh and bones) and divine (created and guided by God’s love and wisdom). 

The both-and pattern is also embodied through the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. Through this historic event, God revealed the beauty of humanity and showed us that in the face of our failures, God’s unconditional love makes all things new.
As we mature, we recognize the limitations of either/or thinking and move instead toward a both-and perspective. We’re able to identify and hold the tension of opposites as a holy tension. And when we recognize the piece of truth each opposite contains, we can then put them together and discover the Whole. In doing so, we become Whole-makers. 
Perhaps a new era of whole-making is evolving as we learn to move individually and collectively beyond dualistic either/or thinking. Maybe it’s time we git our “both-and” on.
Ponder:  Either/or thinking often limits us. It hides the whole. Both-and thinking allows us to see the partial truth of each opposite and then put them together to create a whole. 
Practice: Notice when you get stuck in either/or thinking. When you do, name the two opposites, and then put them together by applying both-and thinking to discover the deeper truth the opposites reveal.

---brian j plachta


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